The First Lady pays Alameda a visit

The First Lady pays Alameda a visit

Michele Ellson
Michelle Obama

Note: Click the ship for our photo slideshow.

First Lady Michelle Obama paid Alameda a visit this blustery Saturday morning to take part in a commissioning ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dorothy Stratton that officially put the ship into service.

“Please know that you all inspire me every day. No matter what this country asks of you, you always answer the call,” Mrs. Obama told the Dorothy Stratton’s crew as they awaited orders to board the ship.

The First Lady also thanked the Coast Guard SPARs who were among the 2,500 invited guests who braved the cold, wind and rain – “Coast Guard weather,” as some Coasties called it – to attend the ceremony for their trailblazing service during World War II.

“The let women like my daughters know they can be anything they imagine,” Mrs. Obama said.

She also spoke out about the Joining Forces initiative, an effort she and Jill Biden have undertaken to support military families.

“We want you to know that we will be looking out for your families when you are gone,” Mrs. Obama said.

The Legacy class national security cutter is the third in a new line of ships being built for the Coast Guard, at a cost of $551 million. Like its sisters the Bertholf and the Waesche, which are also stationed at Coast Guard Island, it will carry out enforcement, drug interdiction, fisheries protection and homeland security missions.

United States Coast Guard Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr. said the Stratton and other ships like it will define the service over the next 50 years. They replace ships like the Morgenthau, berthed nearby, which was commissioned during the Vietnam War.

Papp said the age of the ship and others like it have posed challenges to Coast Guard crews. He commented on the rarity of the Coast Guard’s receiving new ships but thanked the president and Congress for including money for a sixth cutter in the federal budget for next year.

“Now is the time to rebuild,” Papp said. “We can’t get these ships to our crews fast enough.”

The cutter is named after Dorothy Constance Stratton, who organized and directed the U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, or SPARs, during World War II. The name was an acronym for “semper paratus,” the Coast Guard’s motto, and its English translation, “always ready.”

Stratton was promoted to captain in 1944 and continued with the SPARs for two more years, and was awarded the Legion of Merit for her service. She also served as the director of personnel for the International Monetary Fund and as the national executive director of the Girl Scouts of the USA before her death in 2006 at the age of 107.

Stratton’s grandniece, Melinda Cook, passed a long glass to Lt. Lauren Milici as part of the ceremony, which officially brought the ship into service.

Mrs. Obama, the ship’s sponsor, christened it in a July 2010 ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. where it was built. It then went through extensive sea trials before arriving in Alameda. The first stop for the 418-foot cutter is San Diego, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said.

The ship will be commanded by Captain Charles L. Cashin III and Commander Laura Collins.

Mrs. Obama’s visit was preceded by a fundraiser in San Francisco on Friday and was to be followed by an appearance on Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards.


Submitted by knealy on Sat, Mar 31, 2012

All of the local news sites reported this as a visit to Alameda. Yet, as far as I could tell there was never an opportunity for Alameda citizens to see her, since she was at the restricted Coast Guard Island. If it was open to the public, nobody reported that fact. Did I miss something?

Is Coast Guard Island part of Alameda? If so why don't we have any access or say about it?

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Sat, Mar 31, 2012

Hi K,

Coast Guard Island is part of Alameda, and you are correct, the event was not open to the public. There were about 2,500 invited guests and press at the event.

And to answer your question about access, it is an active military installation, just as Alameda Point once was. As far as I understand it, those do tend to have a degree of autonomy, though they may be part of a city's physical land mass.